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On a cold grey, rainy January 1, Andreas decided to take a dip in one of Copenhagen’s sea canals. Now it has become his 2021 intention to swim in the sea every day. His aim is to try to find out what winter swimming does to him, to understand the nature of creating healthy habits and to show his (rather few) followers on social media how beautiful swimming spots are in Mallorca.

Andreas Thau Loftager winter swimming
Andreas Thau Loftager swimming in Molinar, Palma, January 2021. Follow his swims on Instragram: @don_gandhi

Prior to January 1, I’d never swum in freezing cold water before.

Back in 2007, when I lived at a sports school in Southern Denmark, my then girlfriend would do it every morning with a group of students. They would even break the ice sometimes, just to get in. The 19-year old me thought this was completely nuts. Who in their right mind would swap the warmth of the bed for trudging down to the water in flip-flops to break the ice and swim at 6.45 am?

Now, when I think back, I remember her beaming face, her constantly good morning moods and the extreme sense of togetherness she and fellow “dippers” demonstrated. Around two weeks into swimming in ice cold water every day, I can sort of understand why they loved it so much.

Winter swimming to connect to mind and body

Since the pandemic began, like so many others I have found happiness in creating personal projects for myself that I would previously have hesitated to take on:

  • Starting online piano lessons (first time in 20 years I’ve had lessons).
  • Signing up for workouts from home (I detest the gym) and meditative stretching (I am stiff as a log from a lifetime playing football).
  • Reading more books.

Most importantly though, I’m trying to connect to the ocean that Mallorca sits in at a more profound level than ever before. Since summer I have increased the amount of snorkelling I do and on my “bucket list” for 2021 is a plan to renew my 14 year old, unused Scuba Diver’s license. So really, these daily sea swims – no matter the weather or water temperature – are connected to a bigger plan of constantly developing my personal journey.

Or, you know, maybe all this is just a sign that I’m entering some kind of mid-life crisis. I wouldn’t write that off.

Self-delusion or not, I believe having these projects helps me prioritise myself. Taking time out of my work day and family life to invest in my mind and body must be good, right? For now, it certainly gives me a tremendous feeling of accomplishment and wellbeing.

But the most important aspect is that I feel like I’m paying respect to the ecosystem I live in. I’ve realised that during my first three years in Mallorca, I didn’t fully comprehend just how incredible nature is here. The sea is so full of life. You can enjoy breathtaking views and mountain settings by just stepping out your front door. No matter where you live in Mallorca, you can drive or walk to a place of immense natural beauty in 30 minutes maximum.

Maybe all this is just a sign that I’m entering some kind of mid-life crisis. I wouldn’t write that off.

Winter swimming dip
There are bad days where dipping in cold water is not what you want to do. Being stubborn helps – so does having specific goals.

Creating healthy habits

One of the questions I’ve had already, only 12 days into this cold-water journey, is how have I created such a healthy habit?

In truth, I’m not sure. I’ve always been stubborn by nature. But I’m also constantly inspired by others.

Recently I watched the Netflix documentary My Octopus Teacher and felt a calling to explore the sea fauna of Mallorca. The documentary also taught me that you can train your body to swim in very cold water. That we humans can be trained to hold our breath for an incredibly long time.

Then, I read that cold-water swimming works to prevent stress. It also has other benefits, like increasing blood circulation and our amount of white blood cells. It basically boosts the immune system. In the middle of a pandemic, this isn’t the worst thing. I’ll add a link in the bottom that outlines these benefits – and gives you some tips on how to get started.

Personally, although I was inspired, I still felt I needed to create some kind of ritual. Something to keep me going on those windy, rainy days where I’m not thrilled at the prospect of swimming in the ocean. So, I started writing a diary. I am using a beautiful, unused notepad I found that belonged to my late mother (occasionally a winter swimmer herself). Just noting down where I swam that day, and how it made me feel.

Andreas' winter swimming notepad
My winter swimming notepad. Another thing which I believe to be healthy: to write a little bit every day.

Spreading the love – inspiring others to do winter swimming

Speaking with a friend last week, I came up with the idea to try and visit as many different beaches and swimming spots in Mallorca as possible in 2021, and show them to the world.

That’s why I add at least one photo to my Instagram stories every day – and I try to vary the scenes for my swims.

By the end of 2021, I’ll have my Instagram highlight reel with daily pictures as a digital memory of this journey. For followers, I hope they will flick through those images showing dozens or maybe even hundreds of beautiful swimming spots in Mallorca.

If, in the end, I can just inspire one other person to start swimming with me on a daily basis, I know more will come. And I know from experience that a beautiful bond and community can be born.

If you would like to get started, but don’t know how, here are 8 tips for beginners to how to get that healthy habit going!